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Major and Minor
Faculty and professional interests
James Mountjoy, chair
Behavioral ecology, ornithology, sexual selection and the Stuart Allison
Plant ecology, conservation biology, restoration of natural ecosystems
Invertebrate zoology, structure/function correlations at the cell and subcellular level in sipunculan worms and ptiliid beetles
Neurophysiology, neural basis of behavior, effects of environmental toxins on neural development
Matthew Jones-Rhoades (on leave Fall 2015)
Plant molecular genetics, genomics
evolution of bird song repertoires
Behavioral ecology, cognitive ecology, group foraging and learning in birds, fish, and dogs
Developmental, cellular, and molecular biology of early embryogenesis in Xenopus
Cooperating faculty from other programs
Janet Kirkley, Biochemistry
Biology investigates structure and function in the living world and considers how those structures and functions are adapted to specific environments. It studies life at all levels of organization, from the molecular to the total ecosystem. The questions biology addresses bear directly upon many of the problems that confront human society, as well as other organisms and environments that make up the biosphere. A biological perspective provides gratifying insight about the position, role, and uniqueness of humans as organisms within the interactive living world. There is an undeniable beauty and elegance in the living world; biology studies the mechanisms and principles upon which that beauty is elaborated.
To equip students with the perspective foCar such study, the Knox biology major is structured to provide students both a broad base in the life sciences and an in-depth understanding of a more specific area in biology. Building a broad base begins with the 100-level introductory survey courses. These courses define the three specific areas around which the biology major is organized. General Chemistry supports this broad base with an understanding of the chemical principles upon which the living world is dependent. Introduction to Research is an important gateway to upper-level courses in the major. Its focus is the scientific method, and it serves to develop critical reasoning skills that are important to conducting the experimental investigations that are essential in furthering our understanding of biology. This course also develops written and oral communication skills and provides biology majors with an informed use of technology via the use of state-of-the-art presentation, data analysis, and word processing technology. Majors then take at least one 300-level course in each of the three areas of ecology, evolution and behavior (310-319), organismal (320-329), and cell and molecular biology (330-339). These courses serve to solidify the broad base in biology, grounding it in a more richly detailed appreciation of fundamental biological principles. Students are free to choose (with input from their advisor) which courses most appropriately match and further their individual interests. Students are then asked to select one of these areas in which to conduct study in-depth via an additional 300 level course in that area or a course in laboratory and field techniques (340-349), followed by independent (380-384) or Honors research, where students are required to present their findings in written and oral form. Many biology majors complete several terms of research for a project earning College Honors.
Students planning to attend graduate or professional school or to pursue a career in biology are strongly encouraged to take additional courses that are not required for the biology major. These additional courses will provide knowledge and skills that will be extremely valuable for life in biology after graduation from Knox. Organic chemistry is essential for students considering careers in organismal or cellular/molecular biology as well as for students interested in the health sciences. Similarly, a course in statistics is strongly recommended, especially for students considering a career in the areas of ecology, evolution, or behavior. Calculus and general physics are also strongly recommended for students with plans for any type of graduate study. Students who are interested in pursuing a laboratory based career would also benefit from taking analytical chemistry.
The emphasis of the department is on putting the student’s understanding of biology to work through participation in research. The research experience is important to all students, whether they are preparing for careers as researchers in the life sciences, for medical or other health schools, or for graduate school. Our students have been well served by this emphasis. Ninety percent of them have gone on to careers or advanced degree programs in biology or biology-related disciplines. About 17% of them go directly into Ph.D. programs and another 16% go into other graduate programs. About 20% enter medical school; another 8% enter other advanced degree health programs. The remaining students gain employment in biology or biology-related professional positions.
For students seeking teacher certification in biology, the Biology Department in conjunction with the Educational Studies Department offers a secondary education teaching credential in biology. Due to the sequential nature of many of the requirements for the teaching certificate, it is essential for interested students to identify themselves to both the Biology and Educational Studies Department Chairs as early as possible in their college careers in order to develop an appropriate plan of study.
Students preparing for medical school are offered a wide range of courses in the Biology Department. Pre-medical advising is supported by the faculty advisor and a student run pre-medical club.
The departmental curriculum contributes to the College's Key Competency Requirements as follows:
Departmental Learning Goals
Students completing a Biology major will be able to:
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